03 March 2010

Kitchen Project: V is for Vegan

I'm two weeks in on "Project Vegan" and I could not be happier with my decision to start this experiment. I initially decided to embark on 40 days and 40 nights without dairy and meat in an effort to refocus my diet. I'm not a terribly unhealthy person, but when I visit the grocery store I seem to check off eggs, milk, and cheese within the first five minutes. Why? After reading bits from Bittman, Pollan, and Schlosser, I began to wonder, could I do it? Could I make delicious food sans cheese? Could I bake without bright yellow yolks? Could I eat organically without going brizzoke? The answer? A resounding yes!

I approached this project as I do any other: with a library card and gusto. I'm a big time research kid (blame it on the liberal arts undergrad) and I believe that what's good for term papers is often good for big kid research. Listed below are five of my favorites thus far.

The best part about these books is that they are not just "vegan good" they're "good good" (which I'm discovering is the deal with most vegan food). Even if after the close of Project Veg.,  I decide to enjoy a steak once in a while, each of these titles has a permanent spot in my kitchen. They rock.

1.) The Bible:
 The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes for a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters (Clarkson Potter)

Buy it. Learn it. Live it. Love it. Alice Waters is the queen and and this is her book. This book is not vegan-specific, but instead lays the foundation for eating simply, ethically, and with the use of each and every taste bud. Waters suggests "Delicious Revolution" principles (there are nine) and then claims they can: "reconnect our families and communities with the most basic human values, provide the deepest delight for our senses, and assure our well-being for a lifetime." I believe her.

See also: Chez Panisse VegetablesChez Panisse Fruits

2.) Vegan Eating 101:
Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (Da Capo Press)

Never before has the term "ultimate" been more appropriately used. I was introduced to Isa and Terry during a freelance project. A friend found out that I was working as a ghost tweeter for a Vegan Bakery, and handed me a copy of Vegan Cupcakes with a post-it directing me to, "READ IT AND WEEP EAT!" The famous vegan duo has done it again. Veganomics provides pantry staples, prep techniques, and words to the wise, all in style that is unique and entertaining. Check all wackadoo (hat tip, Kelly Cutrone) ingredients at the door, this book is vegan cooking, plain and simple.

See also: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule
Please try: Black bean burgers, Blueberry corn pancakes, Chewy oatmeal cookies, and Apple peanut butter caramel bars

3.) The Seasonal One:
Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide for Eating Close to the Source with More Than 200 Recipes for a Healthy and Sustainable You by Terry Walters (Sterling Epicure)

I'll admit it, I heard the buzz about this book and decided I liked it weeks before actually purchasing a copy. Thankfully, the book lives up to the buzz. The recipes are divided into seasons and each ingredient list is healthy and whole. Walters steers away from sugar and excessive oil, making it easy peasy to take her up on each dish.

Please try: The Spicy coconut pumpkin soup and the Tofu kale lasagna (really!)

4.) For a little sooooul:
Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine by Bryant Terry (Da Capo Press)

I can't find the right words to describe this book. Delicious? Glorious? Drool-inducing? Bryant gives flow and that "really, really awesome factor" to food activism and with a suggested soundtrack to accompany every dish and his blessing to "remix" any of his recipes, you're sure to find a little soul hiding right in your very own kitchen.

See also: Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen
Please try: Cajun-Creole-Spiced Tempeh Pieces with Creamy Grits and Black-Eyed Pea Fritters with Hot Pepper Sauce

5.) The One for Beginners:
The Complete Vegan Kitchen: An Introduction to Vegan Cooking with More Than 300 Delicious Recipes from Easy to Elegant by Jannequin Bennett (Thomas Nelson)

Newbie, meet vegan eating. Vegan eating, meet newbie. This was the first "vegan" title to appear on my library account and I believe that was a very good thing. This book is highly organized with an approachable grouping of recipes that even my cheese-loving heart fell for instantly.

See also: Very Vegetarian
Please try: The Pumpkin Bread

Obviously I am only two weeks into this, my "favorites" list will probably grow by leaps and bounds. Stay tuned!

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